Song of the Day #1929

Song of the Day: King Kong (“Soundtrack Suite”) [YouTube link], composed by Max Steiner, is credited as the first score written in a way to parallel, enhance, and support the narrative to a film—and “movie music” has never been the same since. So singular was Steiner’s achievement for this 1933 fantasy, monster film that it was not recognized for Oscar consideration because it was not until 1934 that the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences established a category for Best Original Score. The film starred Robert Armstrong, Fay Wray, Bruce Cabot, and New York’s relatively young Empire State Building (which would be featured in 250+ films after its use in the Kong finale). Ironically, its trailblazing stop-animation special effects by Willis O’Brien were also not eligible for Oscar consideration because that category wasn’t fully established by the Academy until 1938. But the score and the effects remain among its most spectacular contributions to cinema. Tomorrow, I’ll feature another great soundtrack suite from the 1930s.

In the Facebook discussion that followed, I told this little story:

When I was a 6-year old kid, they were showing “King Kong” on the big screen at our neighborhood theater, in a double-bill with “The Thing from Another World.” I got through the latter film with no problem, and then the screen went dark, and the kids in the audience were screaming louder and louder and louder: “KONG! KONG! KONG!”… and I think my sister and my Uncle saw that I was becoming a bit unhinged, not having a clue what was going to come on the screen.”Are you okay?,” they both asked. And I said that I thought it was a little “loud” (a euphemism for “I’m scared to death”) … and they gently said, “Well, maybe we will come back another day…”So, I was spared Kong-related post-traumatic stress. Though I did eventually see the film on the big screen, I first saw it in repeated rotation on “Million Dollar Movie” (WOR-TV, in NY). “King Kong” was actually the debut film on MDM back in 1956 …

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